Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Best Part of Teaching

Today I had the chance to sit and talk to a colleague in a crazy few minutes between classes. We both touched on a topic that is near and dear to my heart – relationships. With wonder she recounted another teacher she knows causally that had questioned how you would create relationships with every student you teach, how that would even be possible?

I cannot even fathom how you teach without relationships, and I know my friend I talked to agrees with that thought. Before I can teach, relationships have to be established. I would argue that I cannot teach without them. Is it a lot of work? Absolutely. But in no way do I consider it optional.

I think one reason so many teacher friends join me in the exhaustion at the start of the year isn’t just the resuming of our school year schedule, but the work that comes at the start of the year. Getting to know classes of students is difficult. Some students make it easy – sharing themselves quickly, connecting immediately, becoming part of the classroom. Some students take a bit longer to warm up, but then do. And then there are the students that push you away, questioning your interest in them, wondering whether you are truly interested. In my experience, the more they push me away, the more they need me. That is work. It also pays off, big time.

This evening I worked on my presentation for NCTE in a few weeks. I was looking through pictures from Brenda Power’s visit to my classroom last May. I’m including the first three I looked at tonight because when I looked at these photos I saw several things. One, I see connection. I can look at my students’ faces and know that they feel a connection with their teacher. This is so important. Two, I see stories. I look at Josh and think of all that he and the boys taught me about Parkour. I think of laughing during study hall. I think of field trips, book talks, and more. I look at Landyn’s face and I think of the excitement when she told me her mom was having another baby. I think of her excitement when she finished See You at Harry’s. I think of her kindness to others. When I look at my table of boys, I think of how they reminded me of puppies – rolling over each other at times with gleeful laughter. Their chattiness drove me crazy, but they made me laugh daily.

There are many parts of my job I would give up in a heartbeat. If someone would want to do the paperwork for me, I’d gladly turn it over. I’d love a secretary to organize my life and answer emails. All that prep work – copies, cataloging books, etc – I can hand that over in a second. But the relationships? Getting to know the kids? That is the gold in this job. I can’t imagine teaching without it.